Reading The Bible My Late Mother Left Me
NOAH & THE FLOOD
It's the big do-over, this part of Genesis, and all that goes before it is a false start, proving that God isn't perfect, after all, and that His creation passed through a first-draft stage before being disposed of and revised. I like God for this; He's a writer too, it seems. I admire His willingness to swallow his pride. To gaze down upon all the characters He'd made and deem only one of them worth keeping must not have been easy. I sympathize.
O, lucky Noah! But his sons were luckier. Simply by virtue of being the descendants of the only man in history who'd managed to win approval from Boss God (other than Enoch, who God was so in love with that He snatched him straight up into heaven before the fellow even died), they were spared from the world's first genocide. Along with their mother and their wives, of course, who were the luckiest ones of all. They sure married well, those women. By accident? Or did they see something in the Noah men that told them to ignore all other suitors? I'd love to know, but I guess I never will. At this point in the Bible wives and daughters are basically just anonymous wombs for boys. (Is there a counter-Genesis somewhere, still buried in a desert cave, perhaps, in which all these women actually have names? If not, some clever feminist should write one -- or what are Women's Studies departments for?)
The ark is built, is filled, the rains arrive, and Noah, his family, and the beasts float off for what must have been the wildest adventure ever, as well as the most claustrophobic domestic drama in the annals of the genre. Strangely, we're told very little about this interlude, which must have been marred by endless shouting matches and, if human nature was human nature then, numerous threats by Noah to park the ark and let one or more of his kin get off and swim. But instead of this unimaginably rich material we get a lot of dry and technical details about the precise duration of the deluge, the depth of the waters, and the rate at which the flood subsided after the storm had ceased. God may be a great writer, but not his scribes. The greatest melodrama of all time they left unexplored in favor of meteorology.
The best part of the narrative is the epilogue, which gives one a sense of all the crazy business that must have gone on during the cruise. Noah, having survived his awful voyage, understandably goes into business growing wine grapes. He promptly gets drunk on his own product, only to fall asleep naked in his tent. Shem and Japheth, two of his three sons, alerted by their brother Ham, find him in this condition and cover him up, and when he awakens he does something God-like: he destroys someone's life for a minor lapse of conduct. This would be Canaan, Noah's grandson by Ham, who didn't assist him during his cold night of slovenly, forgetful intoxication and gets made a slave or servant to Uncle Shem. All for the crime of not being co-dependent.
Thus did dysfunction come into the world.
[For more about this project, see prior posts]